GEORGE NEWS - In a time when South Africa was shunned and sanctioned by the rest of the world, one Welshman braved all criticism to establish and maintain sports and friendship ties between the UK and South Africa.
Since falling in love with South Africa on his first visit in 1964, Stuart Weaving has dedicated his life to this cause, starting friendship travel clubs in both countries and arranging regular tours.
For this, Weaving was awarded the South African Order of Good Hope - finding himself amongst Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth II as one of only four people from the UK who have been distinguished in this way.
Last Friday, 15 February, George Bowling Club was privileged to welcome Weaving and a team of UK bowlers on an annual tour of South Africa. The touring team consisted of highly competitive bowlers with at least two international players. It is the 37th tour of this nature organised by him under the name of UK Weaving International Bowls Tour.
After spending a pleasant afternoon of highly competitive bowls against local players of George Bowling Club, all the players spent several hours socialising together. Georgian Tys Pringle's day was made when Weaving, remembering playing against Pringle in Alberton in 2004, gave him a signed copy of his autobiography, Ambassador of friendship.
When the bus departed that evening, many of the George Club members congregated by the bus cheering and waving goodbye to their new-found friends. The tourists travelled back to Gauteng via Graaff Reinet and Bloemfontein, from where they will depart home to the UK later this month.
While Weaving's first visit to our beautiful country entailed bringing a party of rugby players and supporters with the official Welsh rugby side, he has included different sports in the touring business. Placing the interests of club members above all else, his business boomed and within a few years became an international organisation.
Frederick Cleary, foreign editor of The Star, describes Weaving as follows in his introduction to Weaving's autobiography:
"He devotes much of his time to charity, travelling and promoting sporting and cultural tours between Britain and South Africa. Operating purely in his private capacity, he firmly believes that political differences between governments should not divide the ordinary people of the two nations with so many common interests and long historical and cultural ties. He drew international attention in 1981 when he ignored anti-South African pressure groups and brought 70 scarlet-clad Welshmen, the "Jones Choir", to South Africa to sing in the country's first non-racial international eisteddfod. . . In his autobiography he relates how he met with several highly ranked South African politicians and sportsman of the past, relating his love of sport and South Africa."
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